Page:The Boy Travellers in Australasia.djvu/506

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
482
THE BOY TRAVELLERS IN AUSTRALASIA.

filled all the gutters to their fullest capacity, and but for the bridges at the crossings would have made them navigable for small boats. Thunder and lightning accompanied the rain, and while it lasted the shower was
SEEKING SHELTER.
as tropical as one could have wished. Nowhere else in the world have we seen heavier or more drenching rain than in Australia.

"If you want to know how fast rain can fall here, look at these figures:

"On February 25, 1873, nearly nine inches of rain fell in as many hours. At Newcastle, March 18, 1871, they had the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Australia; ten and a half inches fell in two and a half hours, accompanied by a terrific squall of thunder and lightning. During the whole storm, which lasted twenty-two hours, more than twenty inches of rain fell."

Our friends went to Ballarat, one hundred miles from Melbourne, and once an important gold-mining centre. It is still heavily interested in gold-mining, but the alluvial diggings in its neighborhood were exhausted long ago, and the operations at present are confined to the reefs or ledges of rock. The mines are in the suburbs, and as our friends entered the city and passed along the wide avenue called Sturt Street, with shade-trees along its centre, they could hardly believe they were in a mining town. There is hardly a trace of the usual features of a mining region; the public buildings are substantial, there are numerous churches, the streets are wide, well shaded with trees, and the town boasts of a botanical garden on the shores of a lake where there are numerous pleasure-boats! Who would dream of finding these things in a town devoted to taking gold from the earth?

This was the scene of the great rush in 1851, after the discovery of gold became known. Some of the earlier diggers obtained from twenty to fifty pounds of gold daily; the precious metal lay almost on the surface, and in several instances large nuggets were turned up by the wheels of bullock-carts, or were found shining in the sun after a heavy shower.

"They told us," said Frank in giving the account of his visit to the gold-mines, "that a man one day sat down to rest at the foot of a tree in the scrub. Wishing to sharpen his knife, he proceeded to rub it upon a large stone that lay half imbedded between the roots. As he rubbed